A. The city of God and the city of Man.
1. (1-2) The strength of God’s city.
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
That the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.
a. In that day: The context from Isaiah 24-25 points to the day of the Messiah’s ultimate triumph, the day when the Messiah reigns over Israel, and over all the world. In that day, there will be a lot of joyful singing, such as this song that will be sung in the land of Judah.
b. We have a strong city: Since cities came into being after the fall of man in Genesis 3, mankind has never known a truly godly city, the City of God on earth. In that day, all will know the strength and glory of the city of God.
i. In the fifth century, the city of Rome was conquered by less civilized tribes from the north in Europe. In the west, the mighty Roman Empire was no more, and many blamed the fall of Rome on Christianity, the new religion she had officially embraced in the last 100 years. In this time of confusion, the greatest Christian theologian of the day wrote a book titled The City of God. In it, he tried to explain how the fall of the western Roman Empire related to the kingdom of God, and he made the contrast between the city of man (ultimately represented by Rome and the mighty Roman Empire) and the City of God (the kingdom of God). Augustine pointed out that though the fall of Rome was tragic for the city of man, it really only advanced the coming of the City of God. Speaking in Augustine’s terms, Isaiah wrote about the City of God when he said, we have a strong city. The strong city is the Kingdom of God, the city of man is the world system.
ii. This is an important and often neglected idea. We often disapprove of the idea of the city, and romanticize the idea of man in isolation, in a rural or primitive setting. But in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ on this earth, there will be cities – but redeemed cities, glorious communities organized under the strength and salvation and righteousness and truth of the LORD. God’s supreme ideal is not an escape from all community and a private communion with nature; the Kingdom of God will be realized in a strong city.
c. God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks: The city of God, from beginning to end, is all about salvation. Even the walls and the bulwarks of the city are saved.
d. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter it: The city of God, with all its strength and salvation, is only for the righteous, and those who keep the truth. In the same principle, the New Jerusalem is a city filled with glory, which excludes the unrighteous (Revelation 21:22-27).
i. We should make a distinction between the Kingdom of the Messiah, the millennial reign of Jesus (described here in Isaiah 26), and the coming of the New Jerusalem (which comes when this earth passes away, Revelation 21:1-2). The cities are similar, because they are both from the LORD, but they come at different times in God’s plan of the ages.
2. (3-4) The LORD is our source of strength.
You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the LORD forever,
For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.
a. You will keep him in perfect peace: This is a wonderful promise: perfect peace. God promises that we can have perfect peace, and even be kept in a place of perfect peace.
i. In Hebrew, the term perfect peace is actually shalom shalom. This shows how in Hebrew, repetition communicates intensity. It isn’t just shalom; it is shalom shalom, perfect peace.
ii. “Understand, dear soul, that it is thy privilege to live inside the double doors of God’s loving care. He says to thee, ‘Peace, peace.’ If one assurance is not enough, He will follow it with a second and a third.” (Meyer)
iii. Some can have this perfect peace, but it is fleeting, and they are never kept there. Others can be kept in peace, but it is not a perfect peace, it is the peace of the wicked, the peace of spiritual sleep and ultimate destruction. But there is a perfect peace that the LORD will keep us in.
b. Whose mind is stayed on You: This is the place of perfect peace and the source of it. When we keep our minds stayed – settled upon, established upon – the LORD Himself, then we can be kept in this perfect peace.
i. To be kept in this perfect peace is a matter of our mind. This isn’t so much a matter of our spirit or of our soul or of our heart. It is a matter of our mind. We are to love the LORD our God with all of our mind (Matthew 22:37). We are transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). We can have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16, Philippians 2:5). We are not to set our mind on earthly things (Philippians 3:19), but to set our mind on things above (Colossians 3:2). The Christian life is not an unthinking life of just doing, or experiencing, but it is also about thinking, and where we set our mind is essential in our walk before the LORD.
ii. To be kept in this perfect peace, our mind must be stayed. According to Strong’s Dictionary, the Hebrew word sawmak comes from the root “to prop,” and has the idea “to lean upon or take hold of…bear up, establish, uphold, lay, lean, lie hard, put, rest self, set self, stand fast, stay (self), sustain.” In other places the same word is translated sustained (Genesis 27:37, Psalm 3:5), or when the priest would put their hands on the head of a sacrificial animal (Exodus 29:10, 15, 19), or of the laying on of hands in other circumstances (Numbers 27:18), of being upheld (Psalm 71:6), to stand fast upon (Psalm 111:8), of being established (Psalm 112:8), of leaning upon (Isaiah 36:6, 48:2). It is fair to ask the disciples of Jesus Christ: What sustains your mind? What do you lay your mind upon? What upholds your mind? What does your mind stand fast upon? What is your mind established upon? What does your mind lean upon? To have this perfect peace, your mind cannot occasionally come to and lean upon the LORD; it has to be stayed on Him.
iii. To be kept in this perfect peace, our mind must be stayed on the LORD. If our mind is stayed on ourselves, or our problems, or the problem people in our lives, or on anything else, we can’t have this perfect peace. This is the heart that says with the Apostle Paul, that I may know Him (Philippians 3:10). In his spiritual attacks against us, Satan loves to get our minds set on anything except the LORD.
c. Because he trusts in You: This is another way of expressing the idea of keeping our minds stayed on Him. Almost always, you keep your mind stayed on whatever you are trusting. When we trust the LORD, we keep our mind stayed on Him.
i. Proverbs 3:5 expresses this same idea: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. The word for lean in Proverbs 3:5 comes from the same root as the word stayed in Isaiah 26:3. When we trust in the LORD, we do not lean on our own understanding. To lean on the LORD is to trust Him. To be sustained by the LORD is to trust Him. To be established by the LORD is to trust Him. To be upheld by the LORD is to trust Him.
ii. The battle for trust in our lives begins in our minds. If we trust the LORD, it will show in our actions, but it will begin in our mind.
d. Trust in the LORD forever: Because of the promise of Isaiah 26:3, we are encouraged to trust in the LORD forever – and therefore to receive the blessing of the promise, perfect peace.
e. For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength: If the LORD calls us to rely on Him completely with our mind, He appeals to our mind with a rational reason why we should trust the LORD – because He is everlasting strength. It isn’t that the LORD has everlasting strength, He is everlasting strength.
i. Clarke’s comment on Isaiah 12:2 applies here also: “The word Yah read here is probably a mistake; and arose originally from the custom of the Jewish scribes, who, when they found a line too short for the word, wrote as many letters as filled it, and then began the next line with the whole word.”
3. (5-6) The destiny of the city of man.
For He brings down those who dwell on high,
The lofty city;
He lays it low,
He lays it low to the ground,
He brings it down to the dust.
The foot shall tread it down—
The feet of the poor
And the steps of the needy.”
a. He brings down those who dwell on high, the lofty city: The city of man is lofty, and the exalted ones of the city dwell on high. But the LORD will bring them down nonetheless. The city of man, the world system, is nothing to the LORD; He lays it low.
b. He brings it down to the dust: The city of man, the world system, is all about power and prestige, built on the backs of the weak and the poor. But when God brings the city of man down to the dust, He will turn all that around, and the feet of the poor shall tread it down.
i. Jesus expressed the same principle in Matthew 5:5: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Jesus told us to oppose the power and prestige thinking of this world and to live with the thinking of His Kingdom right now (Matthew 20:25-28).
4. (7-9) The way of the upright.
The way of the just is uprightness;
O Most Upright,
You weigh the path of the just.
Yes, in the way of Your judgments,
O LORD, we have waited for You;
The desire of our soul is for Your name
And for the remembrance of You.
With my soul I have desired You in the night,
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
For when Your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
a. The way of the just is uprightness: In the Kingdom of God, His righteous people walk in a way – the way of uprightness. Isaiah accurately gives the sense of order in this; the LORD makes His people just by a relationship of faith and trust in Him, then they walk in the way of…uprightness.
i. They walk in uprightness because they serve the LORD God, who is Most Upright Himself. As they trust the LORD, and are declared just by the LORD, they walk in His own way.
ii. You weigh the path of the just: The LORD looks at His righteous ones (the just) and He evaluates their path. The LORD cares about the walk of His just ones.
b. The desire of our soul is for Your name: In the Kingdom of God, His just people love Him and desire Him.
i. The desire is displayed in waiting: O LORD, we have waited for You. When you desire something, or someone, you will wait for them, and do it gladly because of your desire.
ii. The desire is displayed in seeking: With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early. When you desire something, or someone, you seek them all the time, both early and at night.
c. The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness: The way of the upright will be one day vindicated.
5. (10-11) The way of the wicked.
Let grace be shown to the wicked,
Yet he will not learn righteousness;
In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
And will not behold the majesty of the LORD.
LORD, when Your hand is lifted up, they will not see.
But they will see and be ashamed
For their envy of people;
Yes, the fire of Your enemies shall devour them.
a. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness: The wicked are ungrateful for God’s goodness.
b. And will not behold the majesty of the LORD…. they will see and be ashamed…the fire of Your enemies shall devour them: The wicked end in disaster.
B. Promises made to a humble heart.
1. (12-18) The prayer of a humble heart.
LORD, You will establish peace for us,
For You have also done all our works in us.
O LORD our God, masters besides You
Have had dominion over us;
But by You only we make mention of Your name.
They are dead, they will not live;
They are deceased, they will not rise.
Therefore You have punished and destroyed them,
And made all their memory to perish.
You have increased the nation, O LORD,
You have increased the nation;
You are glorified;
You have expanded all the borders of the land.
LORD, in trouble they have visited You,
They poured out a prayer when Your chastening was upon them.
As a woman with child
Is in pain and cries out in her pangs,
When she draws near the time of her delivery,
So have we been in Your sight, O LORD.
We have been with child, we have been in pain;
We have, as it were, brought forth wind;
We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth,
Nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen.
a. You have also done all our works in us: Even though the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostle Paul more than 500 years after Isaiah’s time, one might feel that Isaiah must have read Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Even our good works are works that He has done…in us.
b. Masters besides You have had dominion over us; but by You only we make mention of Your name: The humble heart repents of past idolatry, and rejoices in the present freedom in the LORD.
i. The humble heart sees the folly of their past idolatry: They are dead, they will not live. The humble heart sees the victory of the LORD over all idols: You have punished and destroyed them. “Obviously this verse does not suggest that the ‘other lords’ had real existence as deities but simply that they were believed to have and that their rule was sinfully acknowledged by the people in past times.” (Grogan)
ii. The Hebrew word for dominion is baal, which can mean master or husband. Of course, Baal was also the chief god of the native Canaanites, and a seductive idol for Israel. In this prayer, Judah essentially said, O LORD our God, masters besides you have mastered us.
c. We have been with child, we have been in pain; we have, as it were, brought forth wind: The humble heart knows the futility of working apart from the direction and blessing of God.
i. “We have had the torment of a woman in child-bearing, but not the comfort of a living child…for we have brought forth nothing but the wind; all our labours and hopes were vain and unsuccessful.” (Poole)
d. You have increased the nation: The humble heart knows the LORD is responsible for increase and blessing.
e. LORD, in trouble they have visited You: The humble heart relies on the LORD in times of distress and futility.
2. (19) The promise of resurrection.
Your dead shall live;
Together with my dead body they shall arise.
Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;
For your dew is like the dew of herbs,
And the earth shall cast out the dead.
a. Your dead shall live: The Old Testament gave a shadowy understanding of the life to come, because the secrets of the life to come have now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). But here is one Old Testament example of a confident expectation of resurrection and glory for the LORD’s righteous ones.
3. (20-21) The promise of refuge in the time of great indignation.
Come, my people, enter your chambers,
And shut your doors behind you;
Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment,
Until the indignation is past.
For behold, the LORD comes out of His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
The earth will also disclose her blood
And will no more cover her slain.
a. Come, my people, enter your chambers: Isaiah, speaking for the LORD, prophesies a time when God’s people are invited to come and find refuge until the indignation is past.
i. The refuge is secure. God’s people are secure in chambers, with the doors shut behind them. They are hidden securely (Hide yourself).
b. The LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: The indignation God’s people are hidden from is from the LORD Himself. This is not persecution from the wicked, but judgment from the LORD. This is not a local judgment, but something the LORD brings upon the inhabitants of the earth in general.
i. The devastation of the indignation of the LORD is seen all over the earth: The earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.
c. Hide yourself, as it were: When is this time when God’s people are carried away, securely hidden, from a time of great indignation the LORD brings upon the earth? It could refer to the deliverance of the Jewish people from the fury of the Antichrist described in Revelation 12:6 and 12:13-16. But it is more likely that it speaks of the refuge, the safety, the security of God’s people when they are caught up together with the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) and escape the horrific indignation of the Lord that He pours out upon the world in the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22, Revelation 9:15-21), which will immediately precede the second coming of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:29-30).
i. Seen this way, this is a powerful passage supporting the teaching of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, which says that Jesus Christ will remove His people from this earth before the time of Great Tribulation coming upon the earth immediately before His ultimate return.
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org